Monthly Archives: July 2012
Star Wars: Darth Maul: Death Sentence #1 (of 4)
Ah “Star Wars” comics. Many times I find your stories to be inconsequential with the entire saga, but every now and then you surprise me with something awesome. Shadows Of The Empire, Force Unleashed, and the most recent Darth Vader and The Lost Command are all examples of compelling stories outside of the movie cannon, and with the start of this new Darth Maul centered four issue series, we may have another title to add to that list.
Taking place after the events of the most recent Clone Wars cartoon series,which saw the return of Darth Maul, Death Sentence finds Maul and his brother Savage Opress preparing an attack on the jedi order. Of course, Maul’s return hasn’t gone without notice, and a bounty has been placed on both his and Opress’ heads by a wealthy miner. Dozens of mercenaries attack the two brothers, which leads to an awesome battle in which Maul and his brother mop the floor with their attackers. Maul and Opress are then approached by a Jedi Knight sent to investigate Maul’s return, leaving us hanging.
As I’ve already alluded to, Death Sentence is one hell of a “Star Wars” comic. Tom Taylor’s script nails what makes Maul a cool character, and his relationship with his brother/apprentice is fantastic. Taylor balances the action and exposition perfectly, and while it helps if one is familiar with Maul’s return from the Clone Wars cartoon, it’s not necessary at all. Bruno Redondo handles the art duties here, with a style that mimics the classic “Star Wars” feel from the movies, but at the same time isn’t static. The action scenes are fantastic and surprisingly brutal. This is the badass that we were promised in Episode One and were denied.
Darth Maul: Death Sentence continues Dark Horse’s Star Wars line in style, and is shaping up to be an great addition to the expanded universe. For the many Darth Maul fans out there who are hungry for more of their favorite Sith, this is the book you’ve been waiting for.
Uncanny X-Force #28
Now THIS is what I’m talking about. Following their apparent “death” at the hands of the new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, X-Force is sent into a possible future in which they rule over the world with an iron fist. Rick Remender’s script is packed with excellent future depictions of our team, and seeing them interact with their past selves is a delight to read. Julian Totino Tedesco is the artist for this issue, and it’s good to finally have someone who has the Uncanny X-Force “feel” drawing this book again. This is an awesome issue and hopefully the start of a return to form for the title.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film is an epic. Early reviews have compared it to Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities, an extremely apt connection, and an influence that Nolan himself has said helped him to crack the latest Batman tale. Batman fans though will see this latest film’s plot as a mash up of classic tales “No Man’s Land”, “Knightfall”, and of course, “The Dark Knight Returns”. I’ll keep the SPOILERS to a minimum here when I can, but one should know that there’s not too much connection between Rises and The Dark Knight. Other than the facts the Harvey Dent’s death was a cover up job by Batman and Commissioner Gordon, and Rachel Dawes’ murder in the previous film, not much connective tissue remains from the second installment. There’s no mention of The Joker, so don’t even ask.
While there aren’t many callbacks to TDK, there are numerous callbacks to the first film in the trilogy, Batman Begins. In fact, I would argue that it’s nearly essential that you watch Begins again before seeing the latest film, as Nolan and co. drop us right back into Gotham with barely any set up. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has become a Howard Hughes-esque legend to the people of Gotham. For the past eight years, no one has seen or heard from him. However, the arrival of cat burglar Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) and the terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy) convince him to return to Gotham’s streets and bring the fight to them, despite the pleas of Alfred (Michael Caine).
The opening hour or so is extremely dense, introducing and reintroducing us to a multitude of new characters. We not only get back stories on Kyle and Bane, but also Miranda Tate (Marion Cottilard), the new financial backer of Wayne Industries, and John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt), a rookie cop who was once inspired by the Batman, and is convinced that he’ll return. These characters (as well as a multitude of smaller ones) are given a lot of screen time, and yet somehow, Christopher Nolan never loses control of his narrative train. Sure, there are times where you feel like the focus is shifting away from Wayne, but once you start to get that twinge, the focus is placed back on our hero, and his continuing journey towards becoming a legend.
The Dark Knight Rises is Nolan’s proof that he has learned from his past films. The action scenes, which have long been criticized, are extremely clear and well done here, especially when Batman does battle with Bane, which are some of the most brutal hand to hand battles I’ve seen on screen. Tom Hardy is a powerhouse physical presence, even if there are still times when it’s hard to understand exactly what he’s saying. Even behind that metal maw, Hardy is able to give a very intimidating performance, expressing himself mainly through his eyes.
The real surprise of this movie however, is Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. I had my doubts when she was first cast, and while I should’ve known to “trust in Nolan”; I was completely blown away by her performance. Hathaway is a standout in a film filled with exceptional performances. Christian Bale, as always, is exceptional, and proves once again that he is the best actor yet to don the cowl of the bat.
There are some things that keep Rises from being the near masterpiece that its predecessor was. For one, Bane isn’t as compelling a villain as the Joker. As awesome as Hardy is in the role, and as redeeming as this interpretation is from the sacrilege that was Batman and Robin, there’s a constant sense of “what if” surrounding the film, as if you know there was a spot for Heath Ledger here had his life not taken a tragic turn. There were times as well where the dialogue seems a little hokey, and Nolan relies a bit too much on flashbacks at points, but nevertheless, the finale more than makes up for any of these minute criticisms.
The Dark Knight Rises is proof that if a talented filmmaker is allowed to tell the story they want to tell, WITHOUT studio interruption, that a fantastic film can be made. While The Dark Knight is my personal favorite of the three, The Dark Knight Rises is an exceptional film, and a worthy finale to the story of Nolan’s Dark Knight. One thing is for certain here: whoever plunges into Gotham next definitely has their work cut out for them.
5 Batarangs out of 5
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Justice League #11
Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League is one of the most entertaining titles available, and issue 11 is no exception. Following an attack by the new villain Graves, the League recoups and tries to make sense of this new threat. Graves, the author of a book that propelled the Justice League into the spotlight, blames them for the death of his family, is determined to make Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and co. pay.
The real reason I enjoyed this issue so much is that Johns got into each members’ heads in a very quick way. By showing each hero a deceased loved one, Johns is able to allow the reader to go beyond just the guys in tights punching each other. Of course, there’s plenty of that here too, as tensions surrrounding the search for Steve Trevor hit a boiling point for the League members. After visiting his sister’s house (which Graves just visited), Wonder Woman finally lets loose on the team, and it makes for one of the highlights of the issue. Johns’ has a knack for showing just how different these heroes are, and also how difficult it can be for them to all get along. As always, Jim Lee shows once again why he’s a master of the medium. His panels depicting Wonder Woman throwing down with her fellow Justice Leaguers are incredible, and are the stuff that make this issue stand out from the other books on the rack.
Speaking of stellar art, Gary Frank handles the pencils in the Shazam! back up story, which is hands down the best installment yet. We FINALLY get to see Black Adam throw down, and it easily makes me wish that this was its own series and not just a back-up. However, getting two excellent stories for the price of one Marvel comic is A-OK in my book. And with both stories ending on a cliffhanger, I’m definitely looking forward to the next installments.
Eisner winner Mark Waid continues his run on the “man without fear” with Daredevil #15, which continues Matt Murdock’s little “vacation” to Latveria. I use “vacation” lightly, as he’s actually been kidnapped by Dr. Doom’s forces, due to his recent control over the Omega Drive, the special hard disk that contained information on every criminal organization in the Marvel universe. Doom’s scientists have begun experimenting on Murdock’s brain. Attempting to unlock and replicate the power of his “radar sense”, they have momentarily left him deprived of all of his senses. Daredevil attempted a daring escape last issue as the drugs took hold, and his senses gave out just as he was attempting to jump into a passing train….
Of course Murdock survives, but he’s recaptured and experimented on by Doom’s men. However, he slowly starts to realize that his powers are slightly returning, and he makes yet another attempt at escape. As Daredevil makes his way through Latveria, Waid cleverly introduces the importance of his powers. Since Murdock has relied on his senses for so long, he never had to turn his head to see where he was looking. Relying on his very limited senses creates a great obstacle for Murdock to overcome, and gives us a very entertaining issue to read. The art by Chris Samnee is superb, and really adds to the whole of this series. A fantastic addition to a superb run.
As expected, The Marvel media train has kicked into high gear on the eve of Comic-Con. Last week, Marvel announced the latest trend to kick off their pre-Avengers vs. X-Men titles: Marvel NOW! , in which many titles will be relaunched under new names, creative teams, and directions. Titles like Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and many Avengers titles are going to be starting over with new number ones, but unlike DC’s “New 52” this isn’t a continuity reboot, just new number ones. It seems like just yesterday that titles like Captain America and Incredible Hulk relaunched with shiny new #1’s slapped on their covers.
Oh wait, IT WAS JUST YESTERDAY.
Yes, Marvel is relaunching a number of their titles, including some that are barely 25 issues into their runs. That sound you hear is a million Marvel zombies ripping their new collections up. I understand the appeal of a nice, new #1 on a comic, but at the same time, what about the longtime readers of a series? Or, what about the mythical new reader who started picking up Incredible Hulk at issue one after seeing him in Avengers? Could anyone explain to him why the book is being canceled at issue 15, and will probably be relaunched sometime over the NOW! schedule? No. Relaunching and re-numbering books works counter to Marvel’s goal: while it may seem like it offers a good jumping on point, it in fact just causes more confusion for the consumer. Marvel needs to make one plan and stick with it: either start everything over from #1 or keep the original numbering.
Re-numbering is a pain in the ass for comic fans, especially those of us who value the collectability aspect of the hobby. In fact, it flies in the face of collecting them at all. Let’s say you’re new to comics and start collecting Thor, just the regular, plain old god of thunder. You started with the JMS run at issue 1. You go a few issues, then it renumbers to 500 (or 600, or 8,000). Simple enough, you can accept that. THEN another series starts up for the movie, and your Thor just became Journey Into Mystery. So, do you follow JIM or this new Thor? I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Everything becomes a frustrating mess that eventually pushes the new reader/collector away.
While I’m clearly not a fan of this whole renumbering business, I am excited about some of the Marvel NOW! books that have been announced so far. I think Jonathan Hickman will do wonders to the Avengers main series, a book that I dropped after feeling like it was all over the place ( I should point out that I wasn’t getting New or Secret Avengers). However, the book I’m most excited for is Uncanny Avengers, which will pair writer Rick Remender and artist John Cassaday on a book comprised of a members of both the X-Men and the Avengers. Remender is one of Marvel’s best writers, and Cassaday is one of our great modern artists, just look at his work on Planetary and Astonishing X-Men. The man is a god with a pencil.
I can’t quite put my finger on my interest in Uncanny Avengers. Outside of Thor, Captain America, and Wolverine, there’s no one else on the team (that’s been announced so far) that I’ve really followed. Maybe it’s because of the talent involved, or that it might be something just different enough to work, but I’m definitely picking up the first issue. Hey, if it sucks, Marvel will just cancel it after 15 issues and relaunch it anyways.
The Walking Dead #100
Well, that was incredibly depressing. The Walking Dead is a comic series known for its peaks and valleys narrative. Just when things start to lull and Rick’s ragtag group of survivors settle in, the pace ramps back up and leaves you slack jawed at its conclusions. Case in point: The Walking Dead issue 100.
Focusing entirely on Rick, Michonne, Carl, Glenn, and Maggie, the issue finds our heroes meeting the mysterious Negan for the first time. And 50 of his closest friends. I’ll stay spoiler free for the rest of this review, but be forewarned: this is a brutal issue, and a reminder that nothing is safe in Robert Kirkman’s world. By issue’s end, I was stunned at what I had just witnessed, and was actively looking for a way out for our heroes.
While Robert Kirkman has placed our characters in a very tough spot, Charlie Adlard has created a hellishly violent circumstance for them. There were moments in the book where I actually winced at the things I was seeing. This issue is NOT for the faint of heart, and presents an entirely new villain for Rick Grimes to go up against. It’s too early to say if he’ll usurp The Governor, but he’s very close, and his introduction here in this issue won’t be one that people will soon forget.
Just remember while reading it: It’s only a comic book; it’s only a comic book.
The unstoppable machine that is Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman continues on with this issue, the finale of the “Court Of Owls” storyline that has taken everything Bruce Wayne thought he knew about Gotham and turned it on its head. Faced with the “mastermind” behind the entire plot, Batman does battle with Lincoln March, who may or may not be his long lost brother. The battle is waged through in the old children’s hospital March “grew up” in, to the skies above Gotham, until finally concluding at Wayne’s new tower (that we last saw way back in issue 3). Tying up nearly every mystery that Snyder and Capullo have introduced throughout the run, this issue is a satisfying ending to the “Court Of Owls” storyline, and is another benchmark in the phenomenal run that Snyder and Capullo are on with the Dark Knight.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe #1 (0f 6)
James Robinson and Philip Tan blast back to the 80’s with the new miniseries based on the classic Masters Of The Universe cartoon. Telling the story of an Eternia rule by Skeletor, He-Man and The Masters Of The Universe opens with a young woodsman named Adam, who has recurring dreams of a being a mighty warrior battling his king, Skeletor. Of course, we all know that this warrior that Adam dreams about is He-Man, and that he is, in fact, the same character, but what has made him forget about his adventures as Eternia’s hero? And how can he get things back to the way they were?
That’s the underlying drive behind this opening issue, and James Robinson mostly succeeds here. The opening bits of the story are very intriguing, but I do think Robinson could have explore more of this world gone wrong, especially from the viewpoint of some of the minor characters. The only one we see in this opening issue is Adam’s father, who keeps ranting about his delusions where he is the king of Eternia. There’s also a bird that may or may not be another famous ally of He-Man In fact, the bird in question is what leads Adam to embark on his quest for answers to his dreams. He may not know where his journey will take him, but he feels a calling to seek out the truth.
Those hoping to see Skeletor kick some ass will be a little disappointed, as he only makes two quick appearances at the beginning and ending of the book. We do get a young Adam doing battle with Beast Man, which is wonderfully drawn by artist Philip Tan. His art is a little uneven for this opening issue, his opening splash page of He-Man and his fellow Masters doing battle with Skeletor and his army is a little too muddy for my tastes. However, it starts to pick up by the end of the issue, and the final image of Skeletor sitting on his throne is awesome.
While DC publishing a new Masters Of the Universe mini series is an extremely out of left field choice, the premise behind this new story is very cool, and a welcome twist on the usual MOTU stories. As a fan of this series (and especially Skeletor), I have to say I was very pleased with this final product, and can’t wait for the next issue.
Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #1 (of 6)
Ah Ozymandias. Thank you for reminding us why these prequels exist. After my less than stellar take on last week’s Nite Owl opener, I was very pleased to see that Ozymandias’ Watchmen prequel was really, really good, and serves us great insight into the man who turns the wheels of the original story’s plot.
The issue, written by Len Wein, fills us in on Adrian Veidt’s back-story. Through a monologue, we learn of Veidt’s ostraciszation from his peers due to his supreme intellect, as well as his mastery of ju jitsu at a young age. After beating his schoolyard bullies to a bloody pulp, Viedt decides to stop pretending that he’s not as smart as everyone else and proceeds to basically dominate life every second he gets. We see him travel the world after college, tracing the steps of his namesake, Alexander The Great. Upon his return, he amasses his fortune through the stock exchange, and starts his enterprise. After suffering a big (and surprising) personal loss, Veidt takes up the name Ozymandias and begins his personal war on crime.
Wein’s script is extremely talky, but this isn’t a bad thing. Wein’s view into the mind of Ozymandias is extremely fascinating, and very, very intriguing. In fact, you almost start to understand Ozymandias’ reasons for his actions in Alan Moore’s original story. Jae Lee’s art is extraordinary, and well worth the price of the issue. After the sub-par Nite Owl last week, Ozymandias is an excellent issue, and already a worthy companion to the original story.
The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field
Directed By: Marc Webb
It’s hard to not look at everything involved with The Amazing Spider-man and not think that the movie was made just so Sony could retain the rights to one of the most popular comic book characters ever. However, this film is incredibly well done with a fantastic cast, and thankfully makes us forget about the lackluster Spider-man 3.
Full disclosure, I’m a huge Spider-man fan (as if you didn’t already know), so of course I’d be able to find something to like about this. But I was blown away by how much I enjoyed it. With a few small exceptions (which I’ll address later), The Amazing Spider-man serves as a successful reboot that sets in motion a lot of interesting plot devices for the eventual sequel. Yes, we get another take on the origin, but in all honesty, I personally didn’t think that it took up too much of the film. There are little tweaks to it here and there, but by and large, it covers the same beats that we all know. In fact, it even includes things that Sam Raimi left out of his films, namely the fate of Richard and Mary Parker.
Peter Parker is an outsider, a dweeb, nerd, etc. and this film showcases his awkwardness and love for science way more than Raimi’s films ever did. A lot of the success of Peter Parker’s character can be given to Andrew Garfield, who takes up the role famously played by Tobey Maguire in the previous trilogy. Garfield absolutely owns this role, capturing the angst and pain of losing his beloved Uncle Ben (played by Martin Sheen no less), but also delivering some extremely entertaining one liners as Spider-man, something that Raimi’s films seemed to forget about the wall-crawler. He’s FUNNY in this movie, especially when going toe to toe with the Lizard. You can tell Garfield is having a blast portraying a character that means a lot to him, and in my opinion, he blows Maguire out of the water.
The always-lovely Emma Stone is great as well. Looking like a John Romita drawing come to life, her scenes with Garfield are some of the best moments in the film, and you can feel the chemistry these two have (which probably explains why they’re also a couple in real life). From the two awkwardly talking in the halls of Mid Town High, to Peter sneaking into her room after being badly beaten by the Lizard, you get the sense that these two characters really care about each other, and we in turn start to care about them.
Rhys Ifans plays Curt Connors as a wise father figure for Peter at first, who quickly becomes a slave to his experiment (literally) by becoming the Lizard. Ifans certainly does a great job as Connors, but when he starts taking the Lizard serum, he immediately takes a turn to evil. While one can make the argument that his serum makes him mentally unhinged, it’s still a little too quick of a character turnaround. I’m still not a fan of the Lizard’s “goomba” look, but it’s something I’ve made peace with, and the Lizard is typically moving so fast that you don’t really notice his face all that much.
Speaking of moving fast, The Amazing Spider-man has some awesome action scenes between Spidey and The Lizard, my favorite being their battle at Mid Town High School. I love seeing Spidey take on his enemies and in new ways, especially when it came to using his web shooters (another fantastic addition that was missing from Raimi’s trilogy), and seeing him bounce from one surface to the other, too fast for his enemies to hit him, was a thrill for this lifelong Spidey fan.
While I loved this movie, it’s not entirely perfect. Like the Raimi/Maguire trilogy, Spider-man is constantly taking off his mask. I understand that they’ve hired an actor and want his face to be seen, but there were some times when I legitimately was wondering why the hell Peter Parker even bothered creating the mask if he was going to keep taking it off. There’s also a new spin on the Uncle Ben killer that, while used as a driving force for Peter becoming Spider-man, feels a little like change for the sake of change. Sally Field is also criminally underused as Aunt May, who seems to be more like an afterthought in this movie.
In many ways, The Amazing Spider-man has a lot in common with last year’s X-Men: First Class. Both are reboots coming after an unpopular entry in the film series, and both are films that no one seems too excited to see at first. While there’s a divide on the internet amongst fans regarding this film, I honestly think that this is on par with Spider-man 2, maybe even better. Garfield’s performance alone sells this movie, and fans of Spider-man comics will find more things done “right” here than not. We’ve still yet to have the “perfect Spider-man movie”, but Amazing Spider-man is very, very close, and I can’t wait to see who Spidey’s going to throw down with in the sequel (PLEASE be Electro!).
Four “THWIPS!” out of Four
* Also, there’s a short scene about halfway through the end credits, but nothing at the end.
The drums of war are being beaten once again in the comic landscape. This time, it’s Marvel marching in, declaring a (nother) major event that will probably “change the Marvel universe FOREVER!” So what are these cryptic images of Thor’s shattered hammer (happens to him a lot, doesn’t it), Iron Man’s bullet-holed helmet, and Wolverine’s seared to the bone forearm supposed to mean?
Beats me, but it’s a safe bet that we’re getting another event soon. What? So soon after Avengers vs. X-Men you say? Well, yeah, it’s how Marvel runs now. Event begets event begets event. “House Of M” led to “Civil War”, which led to “World War Hulk”, which led to “Secret Invasion”, which led to “Dark Reign”, which led to “Siege”, which led to…
I could go on, but I’m getting a headache. Remember when “Siege” was coming out, and Marvel said that it would be their last event for a while? Seems cute that they said it now, doesn’t it? Events are so prevalent now that people are getting tired of getting tired of events! I’ve seen on the interwebs rumblings that there will be some creative shake ups at Marvel following Avengers vs. X-Men, so perhaps this will lead to whatever this “war” is into a more positive light.
While this may be another Fear Itself waiting in the wings, I’m personally holding out for these images to be teasing “The Ultron War”, the event that Brian Michael Bendis hinted at in one of the .1 issues of Avengers with Bryan Hitch. With Bendis leaving the Avengers titles soon, one would think that this event leading to the return of the mass-murdering robot to be a safe bet. Lord knows I’d love to see current roster of Avengers (including the Secret, New, and Academy teams) face off with Ultron, my favorite villain of theirs.
Having just read the “Ultron Unlimited” trade from Kurt Busiek and George Perez this week, I really want to see more of Ultron in the current Marvel universe. In fact, the hints have been there for a while now. There’s the already mentioned .1 issue of Avengers, which all but showed Ultron within it’s pages, but also the timeline shown in the first storyline of the relaunched Avengers series, in which Earth’s Mightiest Heroes traveled to a possible future. Ultron also figured prominently in the opening issues of the Bendis-penned Moon Knight series that recently wrapped. Granted, it was the disembodied head of one of his robot duplicates, but still, it was a Bendis-written story that teased Ultron, he’s gotta be coming.
While I’m holding out hope for an event that I’m actually, legitimately looking forward to, like many of you I’ll be waiting until San Diego Comic Con, when Marvel will finally reveal “The Ultron War”. Or “The Avengers War”. Or most likely, “The Relaunch War”.
And this is what I get for writing on this topic BEFORE the week is out. It’s a new Punisher series, titled, you guessed it, “Punisher War Zone”. I’m not changing anything above, as I’m still holding out hope for the Ultron War, but of course, it’s typical Marvel to release ANOTHER Punisher title. Or maybe it’s a storyline? Regardless, the fact of the matter is that we have Punisher presumably fighting the Avengers, an okay concept until you realize that he’s just a guy and that anyone of the people shown in those pictures would mop the floor with him, and probably has.
Marvel, just STOP already.